America’s Cup 32, monitoring the madness


Good grief!  It was plain as day that this America’s Cup was going to be all about technology (and bad mojo), but a pair of wind-seeking microlights equipped at minimum with anemometer, satellite compass, and radar?  I can’t find any info about the Alinghi Air Force on the team’s own site, but Sailing Anarchy has the tape, and some trenchant commentary.  If any of you can find out more on that electronics set up — or, even better, what’s on the boats — please let us know.  Meanwhile, I’m lining up the resources I’ll use to monitor this madness in progress…

And I mean madness in several senses.  I recently listened to Russell Coutts’s press conference on BMW Oracle’s blog, and he is so angry that I almost yearned for the duller days of Newport.  But then again, Valencia Sailing delivered amazing shots of the mad trimaran USA doing over 20 knots in 7 knots of true wind.  Click that picture bigger, and wouldn’t you too like to fly that carbon fiber bird with its 190 foot wing, if just for an hour or so?  (Unfortunately Larry Ellison is not even remotely a relative.)
   I’ll be revisiting all the sites linked to above as the race drama unfolds, but there’s little doubt that my main man in Valencia will be Kimball Livingston.  He started blogging with the last cup, and took to it like a fish to water.  Now he’s got his own site and is preparing for the AC as if for combat.  Speaking of which, I’m pleased to note that my buddy Charlie Doane — who is as wise about the cruising sailboat world as Kimball is about the racing one — has also started blogging.  And he’s taken to it like duct tape to a leaky dink.


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

17 Responses

  1. Arnie says:

    Unfortunately America’s Cup has become more about what team has the best lawyers instead of sailors.
    I’d rather watch a bunch of kids in their Prams then some hired guns and their inflated egos.

  2. Chris says:

    Looks like an Iridium openport,for broadband voice and data rather than a radar.Perhaps they look for the wind then this data goes back via the openport with position ??

  3. John says:

    I agree with Chris, it looks like an Iridium open port and wind / position monitoring equipment. Likewise I prefer watching the kids sailing their Lasers and Optimists at the local yacht club. There’s just as competitive spirit but without the childish behaviour and egos!

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Good calls on the OpenPort, I think; makes the installation location more sensible, though I’m surprised they need sat coms in such close quarters.
    I don’t buy the watching-prams-is-better thing, however. I don’t care if Ellison and Bertalluci are most obnoxious billionaires on earth — a distinct possibility — they financed two amazing boats and teams.

  5. Sandy Daugherty says:

    I’m not sure what the rules are there, or even if the rules would be enforced for this event, but I doubt these are legal ultralites. They look and sound like Continental O-200 engines, which would, with an alternator and battery big enough to run that equipment, push the empty weight over the limit in the U.S. Other clues are the diameter of the propellors, and the apparently short wingspan which would suggest top end speeds outside the range of U.S. Ultralights. Sport Aircraft Category machines would carry registration numbers, neh?

  6. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Some notes about the gliders:
    1. One of these float planes made like a submarine, and was seen being towed (upside down) behind a tender last week. Wonder how water proof the electronics are 🙂
    2. Alinghi has been maniupulating the rules to their advantage for this race, including surprise … Alinghi has issued sailing rules for the race that exclude the use of LIDAR (uses lasers to measure wind speed and direction from a distance) from the race boats. BMWO is known to be equiped with LIDAR. No doubt the float planes use some method that is allowed under the rules to get wind information to the race boat.

  7. Chris says:

    I think Dan has the right idea.Get a good line on true wind ,transmit it real time at broadband speed via Iridium Openport to a central place to process this aganst the boats current position and current wind conditions and indicate to the vessel in some way when and where better conditions are.The race yacht does not need the complex data, all it needs are “hey there is better wind over here” .I have to question why they are using these microlights if there is no way to tansmit the data either visualy of otherwise to the vessel concerned.Wind will change on a daily basis so the benefit of these craft other than in real time is questionable.The powers that be need to look into this more deeply and maybe look into the proximity of support vessels in relation to the race yachts

  8. Larry Brandt says:

    It should be easy to identify their datalink frequency and either spoof it or jam the airborne connection. Of course, that would be illegal…nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

  9. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Perhaps a violation of Spain’s equivalent of FCC laws, but it would appear to not be a violation of the sailing rules (NOR and SI) if the jamming was done from one of the motored support tenders.
    There is that one rule about this “being a friendly competition between nations”. Jamming another teams support craft might be an issue, but if “friendly competition” was to be enforced, Alinghi would already be disqualified 20x over.

  10. PimH says:

    Come on, Dan. It’s not like BMW Oracle is albout fairplay! Give alinghi some credit for this cool solution.
    Does anyone know what BMOR uses for anemometer? It doesn’t look like anything I know.

  11. Sandy Daugherty says:

    It looks like one of the solid state ultrasonic wind instruments, Airmar’s PB200, or Maretron’s WSO 100. I understand there is a third manufacturer of a similar instrument.

  12. Sandy Daugherty says:

    Sorry, I was talking about the instrument on the Ultralites.

  13. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Very little is known about the gliders, I don’t recall that the purpose of the gliders is stated anywhere either.
    There is a belief that the gliders are a solution to enabling the race committe to enforce a very strange new sailing rule unique to this year’s America’s Cup race. The rule calls for the race to occur only if winds on the race course are under 15 knots at a height of 60 meters.
    The gliders over come the practical problem of placing 60 meter towers around the race course.
    This new rule, which also includes a limit of 1 meter waves or less.
    Since 90 foot (and longer) boats have been used in past America Cup races, with masts almost but not quite as tall, USA has accused Alinghi of creating the sailing rule for the sole purpose of giving their sailboat a critical design advantage by optimizing it for a small range of wind conditions.
    The rule is crazy. Even little optimist sailboats with kids on them will sail in 20 knots of sea level wind. A 15 knot wind at 60 meters is equal to about half of that, 11 knots of wind at sea level, which is barely enough to fly a kite!
    No matter what crazy safety justification, the America’s Cup is a design competition, this rule should have been announced at the start of the competition to be fair, so both boats could design to the same conditions.
    When we all saw the 15 knot rule we thought first how are they going to even measure it (across the whole course). Then when they modified the rule to be measured at 60 knots, we thought Alinghi was insane .. how is a 8 meter high race committee boat going to measure that?
    A cool solution perhaps to the enforcement of the rule, but the intent is essentially combative even if there are no guns per se on the glider.

  14. Mike Holden says:

    Alinghi had a short blurb on their news page but not much info:

  15. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Interesting developments in regards to the gliders.
    1) The sailing judges decided that the arbitrary wind limits set in the sailing rules is not valid, and that the judges would make their own judgment on wind limits necessary, if any, needed for safety.
    So the gliders will no longer be useful in attempting to enforce a wind limit measured at 60 meters.
    2) The ban on LIDAR wind measurement equipment imposed by the cup defender in the latest release of the racing rules has been lifted by the sailing jury after being contested by the USA team.
    So both teams will now have the ability to measure wind on the course. Although the gliders may prove to be far superior at measuring wind at a specific point in the air, how can that best be leveraged?
    Does that only provide a superior platform for calibrating and fine tuning Alinghi’s state of the art boat electronics?
    Assuming that Alinghi also has LIDAR, is the glider even intended to be used while racing? Just how are they going to transmit useful information back to the skipper and integrate that into the decision making?

  16. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Well, I’ll be darned…I just heard from Dan and he’s in Valencia! And he’s hoping to do a little snooping into high tech AC electronics for benefit. Go Dan!
    PS: Best I can tell, the first AC race at 4am Monday will not be televized in the USA, and the online ESPN360 coverage depends on who your ISP is. Sailing Anarchy and the official AC33 and team sites may be the best ways to see what happens.

  17. John Navas says:

    Despite all the controversy, I’ve come to think this event was fitting, echoing the initial success of the solo yacht America in 1857, demonstrating the superiority of American sailing technology — this boat is simply amazing, and I don’t think we’re going to see her like again!

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